2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting

For many (perhaps most) of us the concept of the kingdom of God is very unclear. What is the kingdom of God? What is our relationship to it? And what do we know about it? We discussed the first two questions earlier. Today, we look to Jesus to understand more.

Jesus mentions the kingdom a lot, and he uses some very intriguing and insightful parables to describe it. Matthew 13 is a treasure trove of kingdom parables!

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Sowing the Good News of the Kingdom

Matthew 13 begins with this parable:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Later, Jesus explains the parable:

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

What do we learn from this parable? Two things stand out to me–readiness and commitment. Some are not ready to receive the good news of the kingdom. Others like what they hear, but they really have no commitment to the kingdom. Still others are attracted to the kingdom but some other commitment prevents them from really committing to it.

I think we have all known such examples.

But then there are those who hear the good news and really grasp it! And they commit! (because the kingdom requires commitment); these are the members of the kingdom. Readiness and commitment are essential in becoming part of the kingdom of God. Are you ready? Are you committed?

The Kingdom and the Weeds

Jesus told another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’

Jesus explains:

The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Whoever has ears, let them hear.

So what insights do we gain from this parable? First let me say that the details of parables are often not important in themselves but only support the main point of the parable. So I would not draw any conclusions about the afterlife from the blazing furnace and gnashing of teeth.

But it does seem that we can expect some to intermingle with the kingdom who are not of the kingdom. Yet it is not for us to determine who are legitimate members of the kingdom, and we should not try to ‘purify’ the kingdom of those who are insincere—or we might rip up some genuine kingdom members in the process.

Some Conclusions

  • It seems that people need to be ready to hear the good news of the kingdom for the message to be effective, but we never know who that might be—so we ‘sow the seed’ of the good news.
  • Being part of the kingdom requires commitment, but it is not for us to determine who is part of the kingdom and who is not. We just need to be committed.
  • We can expect some to mingle with the kingdom who are really not of the kingdom.

Jesus has more kingdom parables to share. We will look at some of them next time.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

Articles in this series: The Kingdom of God
What Is Heaven and Where Is It?
Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God
How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God?
2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting
The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short Kingdom Parables)
The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet

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22 Responses to 2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting

  1. Pingback: What Is Heaven and Where Is It? | Jesus Without Baggage

  2. You say of those that are of such persuasion, “it is not for us to determine who is part of the kingdom and who is not”? Seems Paul thinks differently; “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16”17,18.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theotherlestrangegirl says:

      Thomas, it’s fine that Paul thinks this. He can think whatever he wants.

      I don’t think that means we are required to agree with him.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Well, I have a little fridge magnets that says, concerning the bible, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Thomas, I am very familiar with that assertion–from the time I was a child. However, I don’t think it is a valid perspective on properly understanding the Bible.

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          • Then, let me ask you, which part do you think invalid, the “God said it” or the “I believe it”?
            By this :”assertion”, I and others that roll with it, just mean that we can have confidence in the word and not (as you) wonder which parts are right and which are wrong.
            First Paul is not writing what he thinks, he is writing what Jesus through revelation has given him to write (Galatians 1:12), and to dismiss this as his “thinking what ever he wants” is a bit, over the top.
            “…the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 14:37, and such scripture must be reflected in Paul’s very specific speaking concerning subject of marriage; “I command, yet not I, but the Lord” and later saying; “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord” 1 Corinthians 7:10 and12. By doing this he shows how precious he regarded the words of Jesus, refusing to merge his commands with Jesus’ commands.
            As when he has “no commandment of the Lord”: he then gives his judgment, “as one that has obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” 1 Corinthians 7:25.
            Though he said it was his “opinion” he is still, “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,” Romans 1:1.
            His opinion is to be taken very seriously, but with such remarks; “Paul can think whatever he wants. I don’t think that means we are required to agree with him”, counter acts his authority given to him by the Lord.
            Would the one who wrote; “have the mind of Christ” Philippians 2:5, not have this mind? Hardly

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Thomas, you asked: “Then, let me ask you, which part do you think invalid, the “God said it” or the “I believe it”?” I do not think ‘God said it’ is a valid approach to the Bible so ‘I believe it’ would also be invalid if based on that assumption. ‘That settles it’ seems to indicate that the person is not open to any other argument or perspective, and I think that is true of people who use this argument.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl, I agree. Very good response.

      Thomas, did not Paul also say in the very same book, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.”? Romans 14:4.

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    • I don’t really take that to be about those in or out of the kingdom. It sounds more like common sense to avoid trolls and troublemakers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dennis Wade says:

    I like the conclusions you draw in this post: that we can’t determine who is ready to receive the Good News, and also who is part of the kingdom or not.
    I think we do spend too much time trying to figure out the spiritual path of others instead of focusing on our own. I think Jesus would classify a lot of this as simply judging others.
    More and more I see being a follower of Jesus as a personal path where I need to watch my own progress, instead of focusing on who I think is “saved” or “in the Kingdom”. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t really know what goes on in somebody else’s heart and also that the possibility to “repent”, or to completely start living in a new direction is there for everyone.
    It seems that all I can really say about someone else is whether they seem “toxic” or not when I interact with them in that moment, and to remember that there is a real possibility that the next time I interact with them they might have had a real transformation in their lives.

    One thing I am working on is to improve my understanding of the commitment that the Kingdom does require, and I hope you will have more to say on that in future posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis, I really like what you said! “More and more I see being a follower of Jesus as a personal path where I need to watch my own progress, instead of focusing on who I think is “saved” or “in the Kingdom”. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t really know what goes on in somebody else’s heart and also that the possibility to “repent”, or to completely start living in a new direction is there for everyone.”

      I agree with you that many of us believers should have a clearer idea of what it means to be committed to God’s kingdom. And we WILL talk about that further.

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  4. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    I used to think being “committed to God’s kingdom” meant showing up (reasonably on time) to church every Sunday and remembering to crack the Bible every once in a while to read a verse. And usually that went along with forgetting about it the rest of the week.

    That seems silly, but there was a lot I didn’t know. I still don’t have a clear directive or explanation for it, but now I think it is much more visceral than that. It is who are as people, and what we stand for.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl, I guess that does seem silly but I think a tremendous number of believers think of commitment in such legalistic ways. I don’t know all that is involved in being committed to the kingdom of God; but I think it includes such things as living according to the teaching and example of Jesus, loving others and being a light to others, sharing the good news (in appropriate ways), being concerned and inclusive of the marginalized and the poor, and so forth. These are principles rather than burdensome legalisms.

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  5. billclary says:

    Ultimately, I lack the knowledge to render an opinion about another person’s “citizenship” in God’s kingdom. It could be that the person I think least likely to be part of the kingdom is actually farther along the way than I am; the gospels state quite clearly that conventional outward manifestations of piety or virtue may not accurately reflect the actual state of another’s heart. It also seems unlikely that being able to check off a set of dogmatic beliefs about religious matters has any bearing on the topic, either.

    It is safe to say that in a real sense, one can judge a lot about a person’s life by their actions, at least up to a point. Oftentimes, our character is revealed fairly clearly by our actions. But we can all be wrong about this, and, as Jesus tells us, we have no warrant to judge peoples’ ultimate fate. And people change. My wife is a journalist and many years ago, she covered the case of a man convicted of and eventually executed for a vicious murder. But after he was imprisoned, by all accounts he gradually became a much different person. .

    One other observation: in some strands of mystical Judaism, there is a concept that says there are always at least 36 people alive who are so righteous that their lives allow the world to continue. Some versions of this teaching say that ultimately, nobody can know for sure who these Tzadikim Nistarim are…they perhaps do not know it themselves. Some of the rabbis who follow this tradition teach that one should humbly accept the possibility that anyone one meets might be one of these people. One does not have to accept the metaphysics or theology behind this legend to understand the implications. for our own conduct.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      “I lack the knowledge to render an opinion about another person’s “citizenship” in God’s kingdom. It could be that the person I think least likely to be part of the kingdom is actually farther along the way than I am.” Bill, I totally agree! We simply do not have the standing or the perspective to judge others.

      I like your story of the Tzadikim Nistarim. I have not encountered that before, but I think you are right that humbly accepting the possibility that anyone we meet might be one of these people could have big implications for our own conduct. So even if it is not true, it is a good guide to follow.

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  6. newtonfinn says:

    Without intending to divert this important discussion about the nature of the Kingdom into nit-picky controversies in NT scholarship, I do want to address the question whether Jesus’ “explanations” of parables should be considered as parts of the original Jesus tradition or as later editorial insertions. This question also goes directly to the nature of a parable itself, what these metaphorical mini-stories are and what their intended purpose is. Luke, for instance, likely the latest of the synoptics, goes so far as to indicate that at least some of Jesus’ parables were designed not to elucidate spiritual truths through simple examples drawn from everyday life, but rather to convey hidden truths through symbolism that could only be understood by those already in “the spiritual know.”

    In seminary NT classes (at that time, back in the early 1970s, strongly influenced by Bultmann), I was taught that parables were indeed simple stories drawing upon ordinary things and situations, and that the purpose of such simple stories about ordinary life was to bring home spiritual truths in language that virtually everyone could understand. Accordingly, I was also taught that so-called explanations of parables by Jesus, which often tended to allegorize them (this stands for this, that stands for that), were editorial commentary supplied by the gospel writer. Luke’s misunderstanding of the obfuscating nature and purpose of a parable was cited to buttress what seemed to me to be a rather obvious conclusion, once I was led to focus on the issue.

    Although NT scholarship has moved on from Bultmann in many ways, and although I myself have come to differ with him in crucial respects, Bultmann’s identification of the form and nature of a parable, and the intended use to which he believed Jesus put them in his teaching, remain utterly convincing to me, because they are so fully in accord with Jesus’ character as I have come to know it. He came not to hide the things of God from anyone, but to reveal them to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, I can see your point. I don’t know if Luke was off-base in saying that Jesus used parables to HIDE insight from the general listener, but I have often wondered why he would do that if his purpose was to provide insight.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God? | Jesus Without Baggage

  8. Pingback: Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. Pingback: The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short Kingdom Parables) | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet | Jesus Without Baggage

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